The Tony Award for Best Musical was awarded on June 9 to Hadestown, a show I was fortunate enough to see in its pre-Broadway debut at the New York Theater Workshop. Hadestown is a retelling of a Greek myth about Orpheus and Eurydice, set during the Great Depression.
There are several versions of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, but the basic story is about an extremely talented musician (Orpheus) who falls in love with a beautiful girl (Eurydice) and then quickly loses her to an untimely death. Orpheus decides to visit the Underworld—the home of Hades and his wife, Persephone—to ask Hades to release Eurydice back to life on earth. Orpheus sings for Hades, and his emotional song moves Hades to grant his request—with one condition. Orpheus must travel back to the world above without ever looking behind him to see if Eurydice is following. Only when Eurydice reaches the light will she be returned to her living body—and only if Orpheus never once looks back.
While watching the musical Hadestown, it’s easy to forget that the story it’s based on is a tragedy. Yet the narrator, Hermes, tells the audience right from the start that “this is a story about a man who tries.” Orpheus tries to save Eurydice from death. He does not succeed.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of another story about a man who descended into Hell to save someone he loved. His name is Jesus. Like Orpheus, he descended into the realms of death. “He was delivered over to death for our sins” (Romans 4:25a). Also like Orpheus, he came back to the land of the living. He “was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25b). “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).
The difference, of course, is that Jesus did not look back. Everyone who chooses to follow him is raised with him to a new and eternal life. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14).
This is the good news of the Bible. This is the Christian message—that Jesus died to lead us from death into life. He asks us to believe in him. He asks us to follow him. The question is, will we look back? Will we allow the pleasures of life, our insecurities, or our independence to pull us back into the darkness of a life without Jesus?
Will you be someone who only tried? Or will you follow the one who has conquered death and trust your life to him?
This new life in Jesus is one of the things even Christians disagree about. Some Christians believe in a permanent salvation, starting when one accepts Jesus as their savior. Others believe that new life begins when one accepts Jesus, but that salvation can be lost if one “looks back” and forsakes their faith. Still others believe that salvation is a life-long process (even extending after life into purgatory), involving faith, obedience, and participating in the sacraments of the church.
If you have ever wondered about these differences in Christian beliefs, you may be interested in a new book I’ve written on Christian worldviews. By clicking on the link below, you will receive a free download containing a short excerpt of the book and you will be added to a mailing list to be notified when the book is published. (I also included a few statistics about the crazy things some people believe, just for laughs.)
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Stories are a metaphor for life. That's a deep way of saying we can learn life lessons from stories we read or watch on stage or on big or small screens. When viewed through a Christian worldview, even secular films and books can tell us something about our Christian walk. Here you will find a collection of blog posts with lessons I have learned from stories. I hope you enjoy them!